LONDON: Father Christmas was real? Scientists have offered a tantalizing clue by dating a bone that is said to belong to St. Nicholas, the inspiration of Santa Claus, in the same century he died in what is now Turkey.
Researchers at the University of Oxford analyzed a micro-sample of a pelvic fragment and discovered that it dated from the fourth century.
Legend has it that San Nicolás, who is represented with a white beard on the icons and who is said to have died in 343 AD. C., was widely known for his generosity, a trait that inspired the story of Santa Claus.
"Many of the relics we studied are to date in a period a little later than their historical testimony would suggest," Tom Higham, co-director of the Oxford Relics Center, said in a statement.
"This fragment of bone, in contrast, suggests that we might be looking at remains of St. Nicholas himself," Higham said.
The actual bone fragment analyzed is the property of Father Dennis O & # 39; Neill, a priest based in the US state of Illinois.
But most of the relics that are said to be from San Nicolás are carried out in the Italian cities of Bari and Venice.
Scientists said the fragment was from the left pubis, the lower part of the pelvis, while the Bari collection only contains the upper part of the bone, suggesting they might be from the same person.
The relics in Venice consist of up to 500 fragments of bone, which according to an anatomical study were complementary to the Bari collection.
"These results encourage us to turn now to the relics of Bari and Venice to try to prove that the skeletal remains are of the same individual," said Georges Kazan, co-director of the Oxford Relics Center.
It is believed that Saint Nicholas lived in Myra, near the current Turkish city of Demre, and his relics were carried by a group of Italian sailors.
The legend of Santa Claus began in the sixteenth century at a time when stories about San Nicolás became popular. Several European countries celebrate December 6 as the Day of the Feast of St. Nicholas.